Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Elder Gilmore Returns With Honor

We are anxiously awaiting Sean's arrival at the Billings, Montana airport

Can you see that Mom didn't forget the maple bars?

Sean finally arrives, coming down the escalators

Sean flew all night from Buenos Aires to Atlanta, then to Salt Lake and arrived in Billings at 12:30 p.m. He had a long night and day of travel, but looked great. After lunch in Billings we headed home to Powell, where he was released by the Stake President.

Well done, Elder !

Monday, June 14, 2010

Parque Leloir- Email #103

The Last Epistle


I will start with your questions. I am not panicked, although it is a little surreal sitting here writing my last email in the mission. Next week I won’t receive your emails, because I will be in transfer meeting all day, then go straight to the mission home for my exit interview with President, and then to the airport. This week I won’t be in my area very much, but I plan on working hard until the end. On Wednesday I go on the tour of Capitál with all my group. After that President has given Elder Sabey and I permission to go visit all of our converts in Ramos Mejia together, so I am WAY excited about that. We will spend Wednesday night doing that, we will be seeing Bryan, Fiorella, Carmen and Luis, all of them. Remember them? I do. Then on Thursday, Elder Sabey and I are going to be hitting up Villegas together, so I can see the Fernandez family, and he can see all of his converts from when he was there. He was there at the start of our missions when I was in Merlo. Then on Friday, Elder Hinton and I will be with the Henderson family (senior couple) looking for a new apartment for Parque Leloir. Just a few hours in the morning. So it is going to be a packed week, but there will be time for the work. Yes, we go to the Boca (colorful village place) where supposedly tango was born. World Cup fever has spread and infested the country. People can’t understand how we don’t watch the USA games. It is like a sin for them. “How can you not watch your own country in the Cup?” Even the members who know we don’t watch TV question us. “Yeah, but you can’t even watch your countries world cup game?” People were not satisfied with the Argentina game, they thought they should have won 5-0, and everyone can’t believe how lucky the US got with the goalie error. But life goes on. I probably won’t call in the airport…that would kind of be anti-climactic…if I had to request a food waiting for me in the airport…I think we all remember my nickname from my childhood…1 dozen donuts please…I will have already bought the root-beer in Atlanta. I have no preference for first meal back.

This past week has been probably one of the most eventful of my mission. It started with interviews with President on Tuesday. Great stuff but no time to tell right now. I did some divisions in Rivadavia with a new missionary who I predict will be AP someday. We had been trying to have the baptism of Maxi but the whole Dad situation was impeding him. Well, after he fought with me that one night I wrote about last week, he started to see black demon spirits in his house that were driving him crazy…Elder Hinton offered to bless his home so we kneeled in prayer and dedicated the home. After that he was our best friend… until the next time we went over…haha I am sure he is bipolar or something. So we were trying to get him to sign the slip giving permission to Maxi to be baptized. Elder Hinton battled with him for a good 40 minutes, was unsuccessful, and basically condemned him saying that he didn’t love his son and the sins would fall on his head…so we were walking out and he said to me, “You seem to understand me better than the other guy.” At this point I just wanted to get out of there, so I just rubbed his shoulder and said everything was fine and not to worry about it. He said he wanted to show me something, and brought out all of Maxi’s birth certificates and stuff. I told him they looked great…and then he said, “Can he get baptized if you have all of these documents?” “Yeah…” “Oh ok, well, I will sign your paper then…” I was confused, but didn’t ask more questions. So we showed up yesterday to pick Maxi up and his Dad was crazy again, and said that they were moving that day and he wouldn’t be getting baptized. It is just a sad situation, because Maxi is completely normal and loves the gospel, but his dad is a loony bird.

Which brings me to the climax of the week. I just want it known that without a doubt the greatest souvenirs that I will be bringing home are the relationships that I have with my converts. I love each and every one of them like my own family, and with some of them I feel like we are best friends. Remember Raquel Lobo that just got baptized in April. She is like my best friend in Parque Leloir. In the words of Anne Shirley, we would be “kindred spirits”. She is 73 but it really feels like we are both 5 years old when we are together because we make each other laugh so much. I will probably miss her most of anyone here in this area. She always gives us food when we go over there. We ate lunch with her on Friday, and she invited us over for an “asado” on Saturday, so we were pumped. The buzz was in the air for the Argentina game as we headed to her house. It was so crazy. Fireworks were going off, gunshots; people were running past us to get to their houses before the game started. It was kind of exciting. So we got to her house and the gate was open as usual so her dogs could run in and out, and we clapped. She didn’t answer so we clapped again. With all the fireworks she probably didn’t hear us, so I walked in the gate and knocked on the door. It was pitch black inside, but I could see that the back door was open. It was obvious that she had run to the corner to buy bread or something getting ready for us to come over. We went back out into the street to see if she was coming, but didn’t see her. Then it dawned on me that her grill is in the back yard, so she was probably out there cooking the meat still. So we went around back laughing about something, and got to the back door that was open. The smile on my lips slowly faded as I saw her feet, and then her hands, and then the blood…SHE WAS DEAD ON HER KITCHEN FLOOR!!!!!!! I felt my heart sink into my stomach and I almost started screaming just out of shock. It was the most eerie thing that has happened to me in a long time. She was just lying there. My hands were clasped over my mouth and I couldn’t believe what was happening. I yelled to the neighbor and he came running over and slowly all the neighbors made their way over. The ambulance and police were called. She was dead…but a neighbor had just seen in buying some food a few hours before. We had just eaten with her the day before. We found her body! We had to give a statement to the police and they took down our information. It was a natural death so we aren’t suspects. She had a heart-attack. It must have been right when she got back from buying the food and she walked into the door. I still am in shock a little bit. So we called President, and he told us to tell our bishop and offer our help with the funeral and stuff. It reminded me a lot of my experience with Garland Fairchild, and Elder Hinton and I became once again “the church boys”. All the neighbors and family members were talking about how much she talked about us, and the church, and how happy she was these past two months she has been going. They said she has been a fanatic, and she invited everyone to come over with the “muchachos” were over to listen to the message she had found peace in. Just a few weeks ago I gave her some pictures we had taken together, and the niece said that they were her most valuable possessions, and that every time they visited her she showed them our pictures. They were looking for them like crazy to put into the casket with her. She kept them hidden I guess so they wouldn’t get ruined haha, but the picture of her baptism was on her nightstand. In Argentina they don’t do the whole embalming process so they bury the people right away before they start to decompose. Before Church started yesterday, she was buried. That is less than 24 hours! Her grave was dedicated by the bishop. I can’t really believe it. We are kind of the celebrities of the neighborhood now because we found a dead body. In church the members kept praising us saying how we were guided by the Spirit to find her…I had no idea what they were talking about, why would the Spirit guide us to find a dead person? To say the least, it was an interesting way to end the week. It just happened two days ago! I just saw her and she was fine! What a blessing it is to know that she accepted the gospel in her life and found joy in the church these past two months. I can’t wait to see her again. I know we will see her again, and the plan of salvation was created so that we can have this hope. So in answer to the question, how are my emotions holding up? All over the place…haha. Well, I will see you all soon! Remember the donuts; my favorite is maple bars…

Love, Elder Gilmore

Monday, June 7, 2010

Parque Leloir- Week #102

The Aidukaitis Effect

Hey there family,

Well, this week was certainly an interesting one. It started with the Elder Aidukaitis conference. Let's just say that he took the mission by surprise with a complete cane dropping on everyone. Back story: Since President Benton came two years ago the mission has seen a huge spike upward in the datos, obedience, diligence, baptisms, and really just everything. He really has been inspired by the Lord to take the mission to a new level. So in the mission we have felt pretty good about ourselves as the most successful mission in Argentina. We were all kind of expecting a pat on the back from the member of the Seventy visiting us. It was more like a slap on the back of the head...haha, but in a good way. The theme of the conference was, "God is happy with your work, but He is not satisfied!" It was intense! He is way energetic, raises his voice a lot, and is very direct. Another direct quote translated into English: "Can I speak with you clearly and directly? Yes? Ok, just know that I am not mad, but I will speak frankly. If the sisters start to cry, I will start to put some more sugar on my words." I really wasn't sure if that was a moment to laugh or not but I did, and then the repentance process began. Elder Hinton and I were called on to give our presentation of the zone's datos first of the three zones there. So we got up and started to give our datos. We said that our baptismal goal for the zone is 30, and that we ha...we were interrupted..."Elders, how many areas are there in your zone?" We answered ten. "Ten? Do you believe that God can work miracles in your missions?" Of course! He then directed himself to the whole audience. "Do you believe that you can baptize every week in this mission?" A unified "Yes!" sounded from the crowd. He then looked straight at me and asked me, "Elder, do you believe that you can baptize every week?" "Yes." "You believe that?" "Yes." "You really believe?" (And then he used some piercing gaze that left me disabled for a few seconds) "Yes?" "Elder, you don't believe that, and neither does anyone in this room." "Oh..." hahaha Let's just say that I think I saw everyone's jaw hit the ground, including President's, the Assistants', the missionaries', and my companion's. "If you really believed that, you goal would be 60, meaning each area would have at least 1 baptism a week. But with a goal like 30, there are weeks when the goal must be zero, and tell me Elder, why would God give you more than you desire?" I think Elder Hinton and I were just the guinea pigs. It wasn't personal. I could feel his love, and his desire for us to improve.
So he gave us a ton of great ways to improve, which I cannot write in this email because they are too numerous. However, I have copious notes in my study journal which I can share with you later. Anyway, so we got a call on Saturday that there was a secret urgent emergency meeting with all the zone leaders in the office Sunday night. So we showed up in Ramos Mejia Sunday night and President and the Assistants revealed the new vision of the mission. Everything has been revamped! I am kind of bummed that I am going to miss this new era of the mission. The new focus is baptizing every week. Everything is changed now. I am still trying to process it all, but I will follow the counsel of my leaders and put it all into practice these last two weeks.

So with that little meeting, we figured we needed to baptize someone this weekend. We had everything ready to go with Maxi to get baptized, and I went in divisions with one of our District Leaders, Elder Callejas, from Chile, to do the interview. We show up and the member in front told us an awful story. Earlier in the day she had gone back to Maxi's house to get the rent money or something, and there was music playing really loudly. She knocked on the door and it swung open and she saw Maxi on the floor with his Dad beating him senseless. He had the music blasting so that no one would hear Maxi screaming. So the member ran back to her house and called the police, the whole while Maxi's dad trying to break her door down to stop her. He said they were just "playing". It made me sick. So we went back there to talk to him, and he opened the door and was really nervous. He can easily beat up a 13 year old, but he was pretty small standing next to us. He was out of his mind talking about how we were obligating Maxi to go to church, and how they are going to baptize him in the Catholic church whether he likes it or not. We told him that would be obligating him, but there was no reasoning with this man. So Maxi didn't get baptized, and we aren't really sure what is going to happen. I think it is in the hands of the legal authorities. Hopefully they can help Maxi out of the nightmare he is living. I thought Elder Callejas was about to wail on the guy...I saw his arm flinch once, so I moved in front of him because we didn't want the throw ourselves into the mix. But it was a really sad ending to the week.

It is starting to ding at my heart that I am leaving. I don't like it. I am afraid to go back into the world. It is too easy to fall, but at the same time, I thank my Father every night for this mission that has prepared me to take on the challenges that will come to me in the future. I would have surely fallen long ago if I hadn't decided to serve this mission. It is no coincidence that Heavenly Father has his 19-21 year old sons spiritually remove themselves from the world and dedicate two years to the studying and preaching of the gospel. I love Him for the uncountable times He has stretched forth His hand in these two years to encourage me, to correct me, to lift me, and to heal me. I know He lives. I know that I am His son, and I know that the precious blood of His Only Begotten Son was spilled for me, so that I could have these experiences, and help my earthly family, as well as my spiritual one, in our progression back to Him. As a child of God I know this truth: A family is forever! I am going back into a dark world, but as President Monson said, "The future is as bright as [my] faith." I think that was President Monson anyway. Well, I am going to close this one up...until next week when I will be writing my LAST EMAIL ON MY MISSION OH MY GOODNESS I CANT BELIEVE IT CAN YOU? I AM NOT TRUNKY THOUGH IT JUST KIND OF DAWNED ON ME RIGHT NOW I HAVE TO THINK OF SOMETHING PROFOUND TO WRITE NEXT WEEK 14 DAYS AHH....dad gum caps lock got stuck. I can't wait to type on real keyboards.

Love Elder Gilmore